Are Democratic Rights Necessary for a Strong State?
There are various democratic rights that people have in the countries who chose democracy as their form of government. Whether it is necessary to choose democracy to turn into a well-developed country can be seen on the examples of the strong countries, especially if compared to the ones that experience major problems in different spheres of life. In this paper I am going to analyze examples of four countries, two of them being strong (Norway and Canada) by different criteria, one medium (Venezuela) and one weak (Zimbabwe). On the basis of this examples it will be possible to see how following of the democratic rights can positively influence the countries’ economic and others spheres of functioning.
There are many democratic rights that are absolutely vital for democratic states. I am going to describe those that are the most important in my view, as they directly influence the characteristics of the strong state that will be discussed later. The first of such rights is the one of thought, opinion and expression. According to it, all people should be free when expressing their views and opinions considering any topics they find interesting and appropriate (Brettschneider, 2008). There should be no form of censorship and information must be easily accessible to everyone. I am sure that without this right it is impossible to establish high standards of living, as people in such a way are constrained and often cannot do what they want. Consequently, they are less satisfied with their life, have less desire to work and contribute to the community, which brings about negative results. The same goes for such rights as the one of assembly, demonstration and petition (Gutmann & Thompson, 1996). If it is not allowed, people cannot publicly express their opinions and influence the state of affairs in their country. Freedoms of association and movement also allow people to realize their possibilities and make a difference in their society (Drogus & Orvis, 2008). I am sure that when people feel they can make their life better, they are eager to do it and eventually it brings considerable benefits to the whole society. The other democratic rights, such as equality between men and women, the right to vote and be elected and one of access to justice also form a complete picture of the way countries should organize and define their policies. I will further analyze the influence of these and other democratic rights on the characteristics of strong nations when analyzing particular features such states possess and comparing weak and strong countries on their basis.
In order to trace the dependence between democratic rights and characteristics of strong states, I have to state the democracy index for each of the countries under comparison. This indicator is compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit and is based on 60 different indicators that can be subdivided into the following groups: civil liberties, electoral process and pluralism, political culture, functioning of government and political participation. Democracy index is defined by scale from 1 to 10 and according to it the countries I have chosen for the comparison showed the following result as of 2010: Norway – 9.8; Canada – 9.08; Venezuela – 5.18; and Zimbabwe – 2.64 (EIU, 2010). In Norway there is full democracy with constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy; in Canada there is also full democracy along with federalism, constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy; in Venezuela – hybrid regime with federalism and presidential system, and in Zimbabwe – authoritarian regime in semi-presidential, parliamentary, consociationalist republic.
There are many different characteristics that can be defined for the strong states. The first of them that I am going to analyze is the average income of country’s citizens per capita, or GNI – gross national income. It is one of the major indicators of the standard of people’s living and well-being. For strong states this indicator is high. As it is demonstrated in Figure 1, the strong countries of Norway and Canada have considerably higher GNI if compared to Venezuela and Zimbabwe (World Bank, 2011). This proves the fact that democratic rights have direct impact on the average income citizens have annually, which is also related to the level of people’s satisfaction with their lives.
Figure 1. Comparison between GNI indicators for Norway, Canada, Venezuela and Zimbabwe.
The second indicator I want to consider is the gross domestic product (GDP) per capita, which is an important characteristic of states. In the strong ones it is high, while in the weak it is always low. This indicator is obtained by calculating the value of all the final services and goods produced in a country within a year, which is converted at market exchange rates into US dollars and divided by population number. GDP dollar estimates that will be presented below are derived from the purchasing power parity, which helps to take into account the inflations rates and the cost of living in the countries. In Figure 2 it is possible to see how this indicator differs in the countries under consideration, where again Norway and Canada have much better GDP levels than Venezuela and Zimbabwe (GDP, 2010).
Figure 2. Comparison between GDP indicators for Norway, Canada, Venezuela and Zimbabwe.
The next important characteristic of state’s strength is human development index (HDI), which is based on the measures of education, life expectancy, standards of living and literacy in the country. It is very representative of the well-being people enjoy in the given states and the higher it is, the better development level the country has. In Figure 3 it is visible that HDI is considerably higher in the states of Norway and Canada, while in Zimbabwe it is extremely low (UNDP, 2010).
Figure 3. Comparison between HDI indicators for Norway, Canada, Venezuela and Zimbabwe.
Developed countries tend to have better levels of literacy than the weak ones do and people there are expected to live longer due to better standards of living and other factors. It is also common for strong countries to consume more energy, as in them there are more ways of its utilization and people can afford such expenses. The level of poverty is usually lower in the strong countries, which is also directly related to the living standards characteristic of them. In weak states there are often such a demographic situation when population growth rates are high, while life expectancy is low, which is also evident on the examples I presented in this paper. The death rate is also higher in the weak states. High urbanization level is also characteristic of strong states, while high level of unemployment – of weak ones (Estlund, 2009).
So, on the basis of analyzed examples it is evident that democratic states have much better chances to become strong, while those who practice authoritarian and hybrid regimes have poorer indicators. I believe that this is directly related to the democratic rights and their influence on people. If they live in free and fair countries, it is more likely that they are going to enjoy their life much more, as they have a possibility to realize their potential and develop themselves in all the possible ways. In the countries where people don’t have a right to choose how to live and express themselves, they have much poorer incentives as to doing something useful for their country and making their lives better, which results in poor way of living and overall dissatisfaction with their lives.
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